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Philanthropy: Manufacturers’ Presence Goes Beyond Products

Some companies such as Hill’s, Nestlé Purina and Bayer support the veterinary community with their generosity.

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Some companies such as Hill’s, Nestlé Purina and Bayer support the veterinary community with their generosity.

Vendors—the companies that manufacture or supply medications and equipment and provide services to help veterinary practices run smoothly—don’t get much publicity for their behind-the-scenes philanthropic work on behalf of the profession and the animals it serves.

Most manufacturers aren’t eager to talk about their contributions, saying they would rather spend dollars doing good than using the money to promote their work.

Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. looks for the biggest impact when deciding which organizations to donate to, says marketing official Kurt R. Venator, DVM, Ph.D., of Nestle.

“We like to create shared value, which means our contributions will be good for the community and good for the company,” Dr. Venator says. “We have relationships with all of the U.S. veterinary schools, which house the future of the veterinary industry.”

Martin Mulroy, vice president of veterinary sales and marketing at Abaxis Inc., says the company maintains a strong relationship with Colorado State University.

“We’re participating in the funding of a new avian/exotic animal wing at the veterinary hospital, and we donate equipment to the veterinary school,” he said. “We also sponsor chair positions at several other universities, including the University of Florida, Texas A&M and the University of Pennsylvania.”

Some companies, such as Idexx Laboratories, fund veterinary student scholarships. Idexx sponsors the Allan Hart Scholarship.

“Any student attending an AVMA-accredited college can apply for the Allan Hart Scholarship,” says Jim Morris, senior marketing manager at Idexx. “We have a lot more demand for donations than we have ability to help, but we have continued to make donations despite the down economy.”

Hill’s Pet Nutrition promotes veterinary medicine at the student level by donating pet food to all 28 U.S. veterinary schools, who can then sell the merchandiseto raise funds for student activities and equipment.
“We are a strong supporter of education because we want future veterinarians to have as much exposure to real life situations they’ll encounter as veterinarians, while they’re still in veterinary school,” says Janet Donlin, DVM, chief veterinary officer of Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “Helping colleges financially so they can provide these experiences is really an everyday focus for us.”

Merial Ltd. donates product samples to veterinary schools for student training, says Mary Bryant, VMD, the director of professional affairs. The company also sponsors a variety of orientation, training and faculty programs nationwide to promote and further veterinary education.

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“The Merial Veterinary Scholars Program allows veterinary students to have a first look into the world of biomedical research,” Dr. Bryant says. “This program encourages students to present biomedical research findings and purse a career in this area of the veterinary profession.”

In addition to veterinary schools, non-profit animal shelters are corporate favorites. Shelters often house animals that are at high risk of disease, have been abused, are malnourished or have a variety of other afflictions that can be eased by a manufacturer’s assistance.

 “We partnered with Petfinder.com and the CATalyst Council to donate cardboard boxes that convert into a perch while the cat is at the shelter, and then convert into a carrier when they are adopted,” Morris says. “This allows the cats to feel calmer when in the shelter environment and friendlier when potential adopters come to greet them in their cage.”

Organizations that have compelling missions also earn the philanthropy nod. For example, in 2009 Nestlé donated $15 million to animal welfare programs alone. Non-profits that demonstrate a need and promise compete against thousands of other shelters vying for assistance.

“Sixty to 70 percent of cats going into shelters are euthanized,” Morris says. “If we can do something to help lower than number, we are for it. We always sell our products at a discount to nonprofit shelters, but we also support adoption events, and our employees volunteer at local facilities. As a company, we encourage our employees to donate their time to charities whenever possible. Philanthropy is really woven into our corporate values.”

Many say giving back to the veterinary community is their corporate responsibility. Just as education of clients is a practitioner’s responsibility, Bayer Animal Health executives say education is part of their mission. The company funds continuing education for not only veterinarians and staff members but also for students in middle and secondary schools.

“By having a presence in middle and secondary schools, we promote science careers, perhaps leading to a future in veterinary medicine,” says Bob Walker, director of communications at Bayer Animal Health. “We provide funding and scholarships to veterinary students at all 28 U.S. schools in addition to working alongside students who volunteer at their local shelters. We provide monetary support and volunteer hours at local shelters and even host adoptions at our facility.”

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In late 2009, Bayer Animal Health partnered with Animal Haven, a Kansas City shelter near the main Bayer facility, to fund a satellite adoption center at a shopping mall. More than 300 animals were adopted over two months, Walker says.

“The adoption program was such a success, Animal Haven took in animals from surrounding animal facilities to replace already adopted animals,” Walker says. “We have a vested interest in animal shelters and also the Animal Health Corridor. Kansas City-area companies account for nearly 32 percent of total sales in the $19 billion global animal health market. We felt that was something worth helping to continue developing.”

Since 2002, Hill’s Pet Nutrition has donanted more than $180,000,000 to animal shelters in the form of food supplies, according to Dr. Donlin.

“Consistent, high-quality food reduces the risk of diarrhea and encourages a shiney coat and right eyes,” Donlin says. “These traits help the animal to stay healthy in a high stress area, and get adopted sooner. We are proud to say we’ve helped millions of shelter pets be adopted through this program.”
Manufacturers fund

programs that promote the profession’s nurturing instincts. Purina helps sponsor the Human Animal Bond Symposium, which teaches how owners can nurture a bond with their pet, hopefully reducing the number of animals relinquished to shelters.

“We funded the keynote speaker at the symposium,” Venator says. “We try to donate to areas that can prevent negative experiences for animals. Additionally, we want to draw attention to what we believe strongly in, which is proper nutrition and the benefits of making that part of veterinary medical care.

“In that note, we created Nestlé Purina Nutrition Centers at universities. These provide an organized area to store nutrition products for easy access and storage.”

Partnering with organizations that cater to the veterinary profession is another way manufacturers can help the profession.

“We fund a variety of veterinary organizations, including the Companion Animal Parasite Council, the American Heartworm Association, the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the International Society of Companion Animal Infectious Diseases,” Morris says. “We host events through AVMA and AAHA as well.”

Online learning is a fast-growing way for veterinarians and their staff to acquire continuing education credits. Merial hosts RACE-approved CE on a variety of topics.

“MerialEDU is a series of courses that are free and available through VetMed Team,” Bryant says. “This program also includes courses that help support veterinary practices, such as business building, team management and patient compliance, as well as soft skills for the veterinary team such as conflict resolution, effective patient interaction and teamwork.”

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Merial provides technical support, staff education and training. It also offers client outreach and college programs for veterinary organizations such as the American Heartworm Society, CATalyst and the Companion Animal Parasite Council.

 “In 2010 Merial is committed to making a donation of $300,000 through the Paws to Save Pets program, specifically aimed at helping Gulf Coast clinics and shelters,” Bryant says. “The program focuses on readiness, including education and training for disaster preparedness; response, developing infrastructure for emergency relief; and rebuilding by helping rebuild and restock after a disaster.”

 Research that may lead to animal treatments interests many manufacturers. Billions of dollars are reinvested annually to support research in a variety of venues.

Hill’s funded the feline genome project, then donated the data to Morris Animal Foundation in hopes of putting it to use in other studies on feline diseases. Additionally, Hill’s has funded the University of Minnesota Urolith Center for the past 25 years.

“The Urolith Center performs some 60,000 assessments of uroliths annually,” Donlin says. “We fund these tests, which allows primary care practitioner to gain information on patients free of charge, while adding to the expertise of veterinarians at the Center. We use the Center’s discoveries to develop better diets for animals who suffer from uroliths.”

Abaxis was one of the veterinary companies that responded to the BP gulf oil spill. On-site veterinarians decided whether animals could continue rehabilitation or had to be euthanized. J. Gregory Massey, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, of the University of California, Davis, who helped lead avian care after the spill, called on Abaxis to donate equipment so the veterinary team could gather more information on sick animals and make more informed decisions on their care.

“In addition to the BP oil spill, we also contribute equipment to researchers on the Galapagos Islands and the BOS Foundation, which works to save the orangutan population,” Mulroy says. “There are many areas of research in which we are the only company whose equipment can help with the research mission.”

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